30 June 2017

Africa: There Is Nothing to Learn From Morocco On Regional Integration

Photo: Agence Marocaine de Presse
HM King Mohammed VI (file photo).
opinion

I would like to respond to the opinion piece penned by your columnist, Mr Deus Kibamba, in the June 28, 2017 edition of The Citizen under the headline "Morocco offers lessons for regional integration in Africa", which dwelt on the conflict between the Saharawi Republic and the Kingdom of Morocco and the north African region (Maghreb).

As an African who cares for the wellbeing of our continent, I strongly advise fellow Africans in other regions not to follow the example of the Maghreb, contrary to what the writer suggests.

Of all the regional organisations such as the EAC, Ecowas, SADC and Comesa, it is only the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) which isn't working due to "Moroccan lessons".

Indeed, Morocco's occupation of parts of the territory of the Saharawi Republic in flagrant violation of international law - including the cornerstone principle of respecting borders inherited from colonialists - is the main obstacle to the integration and development of that part of Africa.

It is misleading and totally wrong to talk about "secession" when referring to the Western Sahara issue since secession means the withdrawal of a group from a larger entity. Western Sahara has never been a part of Morocco. There isn't a document, graveyard or building that could prove the presence of Morocco in Western Sahara prior to that country's invasion of the territory in 1975. With regard to sovereignty, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion in 1975 stated that "There were no ties of territorial sovereignty between Western Sahara and Morocco".

Mr Kibamba wrote that "Despite delayed recognition of Morocco's reign over Sahrawi, there is increasing international support and recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the territory... " That statement is unfounded as there isn't a single country that recognises Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara.

On the contrary, the Moroccan occupation is being denounced and condemned by international organisations such as the African Union through its Peace and Security Council. On December 21, 2016, the European Court of Justice issued a ruling stating that the EU-Morocco trade agreement did not and could not apply to Western Sahara because "it is distinct and separate" from Morocco.

Mr Kibamba further wondered "how the AU in its previous version could have proceeded with recognising the territorial sovereignty of Western Sahara the way it did". On February 27, 1976 - the date of the withdrawal of the Spanish colonial authorities - the Polisario Front, the legitimate and only representative of the Saharawi people, proclaimed the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic as the free expression of the Saharawi people.

The Saharawi state was recognised by many countries in Africa and Latin America. It is thus not surprising that the OAU recognised the sovereignty of the Saharawi people over their own territory. As a person trained in political science, international politics and international law, Mr Kibamba should know that sovereignty always belongs to the people.

It is worth noting that Mr Kibamba doesn't wonder why Morocco agreed - according to the Madrid Tripartite Agreement - to partition Western Sahara with Mauritania. History tells us that when two women went to King Solomon, both claiming to be the mother of the same child, only the fake mother agreed to kill him when Solomon asked for a sword to divide the child between them. Had Western Sahara ever pertained to Morocco, it would never have agreed to share it with anyone.

We consider the struggle for independence from Spanish colonialism, the war of resistance against the invasion of Morocco and Mauritania and the long suffering endured by our people enough expression of the determination of the Saharawi people. Despite all this, we have accepted the holding of a referendum on self-determination.

We have done so because we have no doubt whatsoever regarding the will of our people. We know what the outcome will be.

The problem is that Morocco also knows what the outcome of a referendum will be and that is why it does not want the vote to take place.

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